COVID-19 has been one of the biggest global events that will likely change the way international and local society works. From disruption of international supply chains to upending the economy, the major health crisis shone a light on so many archaic procedures that needed changing. With the rollout of vaccines, new remote work conditions across industries, and the rise of telehealth, we see rapid digitization across various sectors. Changes are being implemented to cope with what would be the “new normal.”
In an attempt to weather the storm, we have seen businesses take the forefront in investing in innovation. This comes in response to labor developments that resulted in 12.1 percent of the world’s working hours being lost during the worst quarter of the pandemic in 2020. According to data from the International Labour Organization, the world saw working hour losses in 2020 that were four times greater than in 2009’s global financial crisis. As companies adapted to turn things around, we take a look at what might be next for business technology.
Sustainability and Digitization Now
Sustainability has seen noticeable shifts within the year, widely pushing the narrative of more eco-conscious consumers. In light, businesses have responded with green practices and publicizing their intent to opt for more sustainable operations. After all, the massive restrictions brought on by lockdowns and the like have resulted in decreased GHG emission, water pollution, and ecological destruction. Research from the Heliyon scientific journal also notes that this comes hand in hand with improved air quality but has the flipside of introducing more medical waste in unprecedented numbers.
In light of that, the industry saw two prongs of success based on what consumers have become more mindful of — sustainability and digitization. For instance, solar companies have continued to roll out installations both commercial and residential as people are more willing to invest in efficient and future-forward resources. Some smaller businesses that have seen the biggest spike in sales in 2021 include startups that offer plastic-free and low-waste products.
Companies that usually thrive on in-office work have also largely begun to consider making remote work a more permanent solution. Because online meetings and collaborative apps have become normalized, the costs are significantly lower, and less energy is consumed. Because workers are no longer traveling, they can also pat themselves on the back for lowering emissions caused by commuting. That said, research from WSP UK suggests that this immediate sustainable option may only be effective during parts of the year that didn’t require as much heating. They note how residential heating is already less sophisticated than in office buildings and add the fact that it’s more efficient to have everyone in just one place to consume energy than the inverse.
What to Expect Tomorrow
Businesses are also looking into different avenues of operating in a more digitally connected world. A major frontier technology that has been hitting the mainstream more is blockchain. Its most popular iteration comes in cryptocurrency, a digital financial asset that more and more individuals and industries adopt as cash payments slowly make their way to obsolescence. Blockchain also sees potential integration into international supply chains, digital signatures, and asset decentralization in video games.
Though the intent for the adoption of blockchain technology largely has to do with finding more efficient means to do operations, other proposed benefits to it include greater transparency and security. Despite countless investments into this, though, major detractors like Bill Gates note how its massive expansion may harm the environment. As more “miners” use up GPUs and HDDs to circulate cryptocurrency, the more emissions and bigger energy consumption there will be. Gates has openly claimed that each Bitcoin transaction uses more electricity per transaction than any other method, citing its worrisome implications for climate change.
Those comments, however, come with what is, in essence, a financial services revolution. Banks are already investing in frontier technology today. In the future, we can expect more digital-only banks to take precedence over traditional ones. Technological change has mainly been the financial world’s way to adapt to regulations that would otherwise disrupt the industry in a problematic way.
Right now, it seems we are on the brink of true historically impactful innovation. And while that spells excitement for the new things that are to come, it also creates a tightrope between sustainability and further disruption. As major companies and smaller businesses alike walk the line, it seems there is no stopping the new digital era. What remains to be seen is whether the tightrope will remain.